Melbourne Rebels’ CEO, Baden Stephenson, recently talked to SEN’s Kane Cornes about a dramatic last 48 hours at The Stockade, which saw the team abruptly relocate for the second time in four months.
Below are some of the highlights from the insightful chat.
Kane Cornes: Take us through your week?
Baden Stephenson: “My first zoom call I had this morning back in lockdown, the wife had the juicer going, the dog was barking, the 17-year-old daughter was dancing to Tick-Tok upstairs jumping on the floorboards, and the young bloke was playing Fortnite with his headphones on, yelling, so I thought welcome back, but that’s the reality we all face at the moment.”
“It’s been a big couple of days and like all sports, we’ve had to move pretty quickly and thankfully we got the team to Sydney on Wednesday night. They’ve arrived safe and have done all their testing, so we can now just prepare as normal for our big game on Sunday.”
You were originally meant to be playing in New Zealand but now you’re playing in Sydney?
“We were initially meant to be playing in Queenstown, which both teams were really looking forward to playing at that venue – I don’t any games have ever been played there, so it was going to be something different and unique.
“We were also going to spend a four games post game in Queenstown before our next game, so the guys were a little disappointed about that, but COVID has changed everything now.
“We’re really looking forward to playing the Highlanders – a team we’ve actually beaten in 2019 and 2020, so we actually match up pretty well with them.”
Where to after Sunday?
“Round 4 was meant to be in Hamilton against the Chiefs, but clearly that might be a challenge now given that the Australian and New Zealand flying bubble won’t be assessed until Friday night. I think SANZAR said this morning that they’ll make the call on Wednesday.
“The Chiefs are currently in Townsville and are due to fly home on the weekend, but the New Zealand Rugby Union is working with them, and I think there’s probably every possibility that they’ll need to stay in Australia and potentially play another game in Sydney.
“It’s not only shuffling our draw, but the New Zealand draw. Everyone is just prepared to do what it takes to keep the competition going.”
What have the players been like dealing with this uncertainty?
“It’s the third time it’s happened to us. In February this year, we were on the road for five weeks before the NRL and AFL had kicked off, but I think when compared to last year when it was new for everyone and there was a lot of anxiety and stress where we spent thirteen weeks on the road, I think this time the guys know how to just deal with it.
“We’ve got a resilient group, so as long as we communicate and support each other, I think the guys will be fine. I think for us as a club, we’re very mindful of the wives and the girlfriends, the families and the kids, and I’ve been very pleased how our club’s been able to support all those in the broader Rebels family. This will be no different.”
The Melbourne Rebels face the Highlanders, 3 PM this Sunday, at Leichhardt Oval. Tickets will be available soon through Ticketek or at the gate, with $20 tickets for adults, $10 for concession and free for kids. The match will be seen ad-free, live and on demand on Stan Sport, kicking off at 3 PM AEST